Making Wooden Dreidels


Making Wooden Dreidels

issues-ssw37-Dreidel-LeadTwo simple designs for traditional Hanukkah fun

Dreidels have entertained people for centuries. Typically played during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, the Dreidel game is fun for everyone, regardless of age or religion. 
    Each side of the four-sided top is labeled with a different Hebrew letter: Nun, Gimmel, Hey, and Shin. The letters dictate the action the player must take in the game (see Playing the Dreidel Game). Together, the letters form the acronym Nes Gadol Haya Sham, “a great miracle happened there.

The Compound Dreidel

Fold the pattern along the dotted line. Apply spray adhesive to the pattern, align the fold with the corner of the blank, and press the pattern onto the blank. Cut along the pattern lines on one side. Wrap the blank with clear packaging tape and cut the second side. Use caution when cutting the thin stem on the top of the dreidel. Sand the piece lightly and add the letters to each side. You can use a woodburner, paint, a T-shirt transfer, or a marker. If you use a marker, seal the wood with varnish or shellac before drawing on the letters to prevent the ink from bleeding. Then apply another coat of shellac or varnish to protect the wood.

The Flat Dreidel

Transfer the pattern to the blank. Drill the 3/8″-diameter hole in the center and cut around the outside edges. Sand the piece and follow the suggestions above to add the letters. Sharpen one end of a 3/8″-diameter dowel with an eyeliner pencil sharpener to produce a blunt point or sand the point onto the dowel. Drill a 3/8″-diameter hole in a wood bead. Glue the bead to the un-sharpened end of the dowel. Place the dowel through the hole in the blank and glue it in place.

Playing the Dreidel Game

Each player needs to have some Gilt, or tokens, such as pennies or candies. Each player starts with the same number of tokens. At the beginning of each round, each player puts one token in the pot. Every time the pot is empty or only one token remains, each player contributes one token to the pot. Each player spins the dreidel one time per round. If Nun (נ) comes up, the player takes nothing. If Hey (ה) comes up, the player takes half the pot. If the pot contains an odd number of tokens the player takes half of the total plus one. Gimmel (ג) entitles the player to the entire pot and Shin (ש) means the player must put one token in the pot. If a player is out of tokens, they are out of the game or they may ask a fellow player for a loan. The game continues until one player has all of the tokens.


  • 11/4″ x 11/4″ x 21/2″ hardwood block (compound dreidel)
  • 1/8″ x 3″ x 3″ Baltic birch plywood or wood of choice (flat dreidel)
  • 3/8″-diameter by 4″ dowel (flat dreidel)
  • 3⁄4″-diameter wooden bead (flat dreidel)
  • Assorted grits of sandpaper
  • Sandpaper, 220, 320 and 400 grits
  • Varnish or shellac
  • Paint or permanent marker


  • #5 skip tooth blades or blades of choice
  • Drill with 3/8″-diameter bit
  • Eyeliner pencil sharpener (optional)
  • Woodburner (optional)

Dreidel Pattern